Demystifying Search Intent: What SEO Experts Look for - 1Digital® Agency
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When it comes to search engine optimization, better known as SEO, there is a whole lot of technical information you have to get familiar with. 

The pillars of SEO, for instance, being off-page, on-page, technical SEO and content. There are also ranking signals to consider, you know, the actual things that result in ranking fluctuations, like title tags, headers, page speed and image sizes, security, and that sort of thing. 

Then there are keywords, which in and of themselves are a massive can of worms. We need to look at the relevance of a keyword to an industry, how much volume it gets, and what its difficulty score it. For PPC experts, there is another dimension in the form of CPC, or cost-per-click, which plays into bidding strategy. 

And, for us who are in eCommerce SEO, there is search intent. Every keyword has one (or more than one) and it is this that ultimately determines whether or not a keyword is a viable option in terms of generating a return through increased sales.

Let’s break down some of the details. 

Why Search Intent Matters 

To put this as simply as possible, search intent is what searchers are expecting to get from the results of a search. There are four main categories of search intent, broken down below. 

For instance, a searcher might be looking for the answer to a question. He or she might be looking for a specific web page or credentials. 

Sometimes – and this is what we in eCommerce SEO are looking for – a searcher is looking to make information for a purchase, or directly to buy something, with a specific search. 

As you might imagine, it doesn’t make too much sense to target keywords pursuant to an eCommerce SEO campaign if the searcher isn’t trying to buy something. 

Search Intent

Sometimes it does, but by and large we look past these. Ultimately, being able to accurately identify search intent enables an SEO expert to produce more effective, more relevant content and to rank more effectively in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Also, understanding search intent gives SEO experts a better chance of driving conversions for their clients. 

With all of that said, here’s what the categories of search intent are and how we put this information to work for our clients.

Informational Intent 

This is one of the most common search intents and many keywords are sought with a search intent for information. That is, this is the search intent associated with keywords that users enter when they are looking for information – usually an answer to a question. 

Nearly all interrogative queries have informational search intent (for instance, “How does SEO work?”) but there are many single or short-tail keywords that also have search intent. 

Search Intent

The searcher’s journey is complete when, after perusing the search engine results pages, he or she clicks on a link and finds the answer to the query posed. In some instances, users do not even need to click on anything, as Google sometimes delivers the highlighted information in a rich snippet at the tops of the search results. 

Search Intent

Sometimes, the answer is also nested somewhere in the “People Also Ask” section, as highlighted below. 

Search Intent

Typically, we avoid targeting informational keywords in eCommerce SEO as they are not associated with an intention to buy anything, although this is not always the case. 

Navigational Intent 

Navigational search intent is a little bit niche as far as search intent goes, and is associated with a user’s intent to find a specific page. 

For instance, a user might be looking for a specific homepage – such as “1DigitalAgency.com.” Entering “1Digital” into a search bar with the intent to find our homepage is, therefore, navigational. 

This is another type of search intent around which we rarely target keywords because if users are searching for a website by its name (or something similar) the website probably doesn’t need an organic boost to help users find it. 

That’s not a hard or fast rule, but it is one of the least frequently targeted types of keywords. 

Commercial Search Intent

Now we’re getting to the “money keywords” – that is, the keywords we like to target as an eCommerce SEO agency for our clients to help them boost traffic, conversions and sales. 

Commercial keywords are those that searchers commit when they are looking for information to help inform them as a precursor to a sale. That is, they are not necessarily ready to buy yet, but they are specifically looking for information regarding products that they eventually intend to buy. 

Take the following as an example: 

Search Intent

As you can see in the above image, this keyword is associated partly with commercial and partly with informational intent. This is because most searchers looking for “SEO services” probably not only want to know where they can contract for them (commercial) but what they are, how they work, what they can expect, how much they will cost, and other similar items (informational).

This is the reason this keyword is so split. It is also a good search intent for us to target for our clients (much of the time) as it improves visibility and positions them as an authority in the field whereby a customer can answer questions about products before committing to a purchase – and that in turn enhances credibility and trust on top of authority. 

When we target keywords with commercial search intent, often we make the most of these keywords through the content deliverables of our campaigns because they furnish numerous opportunities to write and distribute evergreen content that helps users make information purchase decisions about the transactional keywords that we also target for our clients. 

Transactional Search Intent 

Last but not least – this is the most important, actually – are keywords associated with transactional search intent. 

These are the keywords users search when they want to take a certain action, and in this case, they are the keywords they search for when they want to buy a product or subscribe to a service. 

For instance, keywords that contain a product name, or the commands “buy” or “shop” or the qualifiers “high-quality” or “cheap” are usually associated with transactional search intent because they expressly describe the product or service desired. 

With all of this said, there is one note I have to make. Some keywords associated with transactional search intent are not expressly related to making a purchase, but to committing some other act, like downloading software or an app, or signing up for a newsletter. They are however, in all cases, aligned with making some sort of decision and taking an action. 

All in all, transactional keywords constitute the majority of keywords we target for most of our clients that sign up for SEO services simply because they are the keywords that will pay off. You can increase visibility for informational keywords, and that may improve authority and credibility, but it might not directly catalyze a sale. 

All the same, when you show up at the top of the organic results for “buy widgets,” you’re likely to sell them, and that’s how an eCommerce SEO campaign works to pay for itself. 

How Intent Specifically Impacts eCommerce SEO 

Search intent itself doesn’t necessarily specifically impact SEO, but targeting the right keywords for the goals of the campaign absolutely does. For instance, you can increase visibility for informational or even commercial keywords, but without targeting any transactional keywords, the campaign is unlikely to generate a return. 

Moreover, understanding what search intent is and how it works is critical to producing content that attracts customers and also satisfies Google’s hunger for quality. That is how you generate organic results in the first place. 

I’ll leave you with this. You can optimize for a keyword without knowing what the intent behind it is, but you won’t be able to develop a strategy unless you know why people are searching for it.

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Michael Esposito

Mike Esposito is a professional SEO copywriter spurned by a love of language and creativity. When he's not at the keyboard, you may be able to catch a rare glimpse of him enjoying the outdoors or sipping fine literature.

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